A Challenge For Skeptics
We are living in an age of skepticism. Many people do not believe the promises of politicians, because they have often placed confidence in those who have betrayed us. It’s easy to come to disbelieve in people. Television has made us skeptical. We have come to distrust the ads that promise so much and yet often deliver so little. We should not be surprised to discover that the same kind of skepticism can spill over into our religious faith. False cults are arising quickly and all claim to have the truth. There is a danger that we will simply give up and decide to abandon our faith. In a moment, we shall see how one skeptic was convinced of the claim of Jesus Christ.
You will remember that Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them after His death. His story is recorded in John, chapter 20. He was a melancholic, a pessimist, who expected Jesus Christ to remain dead. Somehow, Christ did not fit the description of what Thomas thought a Messiah should be. The crucifixion was a bitter disappointment.
Perhaps the basic cause of skepticism is personal disappointment. A woman told how she prayed as a small girl, that the doll she held in her arms would become a real baby. She was deeply disappointed when God did not answer her prayers, and that was the beginning of a long life of doubt regarding God’s ability to answer prayer. We may smile at this story, but whenever we are disappointed with what God does, there is a danger of skepticism creeping into our lives. Parents pray that God will heal a sick child, and when He doesn’t they begin to doubt His goodness and His love.
Usually, a skeptic lays down his own terms for belief. If God will do this or that I will believe. Think of Thomas. He had the witness of ten disciples; they had all seen the Lord. Any lawyer would like to have ten witnesses who agree on the identity of an event or person. The disciples rushed to Thomas and together exclaimed, “We have seen the Lord!” But Thomas was not convinced. He said unto them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Thomas is saying clearly that Christ must meet his terms before he will believe. Christ graciously accommodated Himself to the doubts of this apostle and he was brought to a firm faith in the risen Christ.
Christ came through closed doors and stood in the midst of the disciples and speaking directly to Thomas said, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” Hearing his own words from the man who stood before him, Thomas realized that he was in the presence of Jesus Christ, the One whom he had learned to love. In fact, Thomas was immediately convinced that Jesus Christ had indeed risen. Doubtless there was a rush of instantaneous conviction, as he realized that Jesus Christ had read his mind and heart, and accommodated Himself to Thomas’ own terms.
An agnostic said to my wife, “If I ever have to stand before God, I’ll ask Him where He has been all these years.” The man was expecting God to show him a miracle so that he would have grounds for belief. But Christ taught that the resurrection is the final sign that will be given to the world. Today, we have adequate grounds for believing in Jesus Christ because of the assurance that He was raised from the dead, proving that He has power over death. The answer to skepticism? It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ—proof that He is all He claimed to be.
After Christ invited Thomas to prove that He had risen, He added these words, “Be not unbelieving, but believing.” Why did Christ admonish Thomas to have an attitude of belief? The reason is because faith is not as much a matter of evidence as it is a disposition, a willingness to believe—an attitude of honesty and openness to the facts. Thomas could have seen the risen Lord and still doubted. He could have attributed his experience of Christ to an hallucination, or even if he admitted that Christ was raised from the dead, he could have denied that Jesus Christ was indeed God. There are many options open to the person who is determined not to accept the plain account of Christ’s resurrection. No evidence will convince a man who is not interested in believing, or who has decided not to investigate the evidence.
It is because of Jesus Christ’s power over death, that we can be confident that He is qualified to be our Savior. The visible miracles performed here on Earth climaxing with the resurrection authenticated the claims of Jesus Christ. It is proof that He had authority to speak about heaven and hell, angels and demons, and especially to reveal to us His Father, who is in heaven.
One minute after death, no one who has ever lived will be a skeptic. Those who have disbelieved, will have to admit that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. All people shall admit that Jesus Christ is Lord. Believers do so on this Earth and will continue to sing the praises of Jesus Christ throughout eternity. Unbelievers will have to wait until after death to confess with Thomas that Jesus Christ is God.
Yes, we might want to see a miracle ourselves, and yet we have a special blessing that is given to those of us who have never seen Jesus Christ directly. Notice Christ’s words to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believed.” Those of us who believed the record and have confidence in those who have told us of the truthfulness of Jesus Christ’s life and resurrection, receive a special blessing from God. Our faith is honoring to the One who came to die for us and to give us a reason for the hope that we have. First, we have the objective proof of the resurrection, but we also have the subjective evidence of the Holy Spirit. Christ promised blessing to those who believe.